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Biodiversity - The variety of life

Biodiversity basically sums up life on Earth. It includes the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems. This diversity was created over millions of years and we are now changing and reducing it at an ever increasing rate. Yet our very existence ultimately depends on it. We should be aiming to leave our children and grandchildren a fascinating world which is full of variety and worth living in.

In exploring the complex interrelations of life, scientists coined the term "biodiversity" from the words "biological" and "diversity" 20 years ago. This single world, biodiversity, describes the basis of life on earth. Three levels of diversity are distinguished between: genes, species and ecosystems. 

Genetic diversity

The first level refers to diversity within a particular species. The fact that even closely related organisms differ from each other is apparent simply by taking a look at your own parents or children. Anyone wishing to preserve a species needs to do more than set up a sperm bank or follow Noah's example of putting pairs of animals into a zoo. Because that would only preserve a fraction of the abundance of genetic information. The best way of preserving genetic diversity is to ensure that as many different individuals of a species survive.

Species diversity

We all have a relatively clear conception of what is meant by animal and plant species. Unfortunately, we are not familiar with the vast majority of the species. Around two million animal and plant species are known, but it is estimated that there are at least ten times this figure. Most of these are insects that live in the tropical rain forests.

Diversity of ecosystems

The word ecosystem describes the complex relationship between species and their environment; it's basically about dynamics. Species are not static. They change according to the laws of evolution. And so we need vast expanses of natural forest, large coral reefs, enormous savannas and all the other ecosystems which make up the diversity of this Earth to ensure that enough genetic information and different species are preserved.

Karina Vargas, FZS Peru Food, potential drugs from natural substances, a healthy environment - biodiversity is the basis for all these." Karina Vargas, FZS Peru

The diversity of nature is the basis of our existence and global economic development. It provides templates for technical innovation and contributes to climate protection. The contribution which species and ecosystems make - from crop pollination through to waste disposal and the cleansing of water and soil - is immeasurable.

 

We ourselves are part of nature and feel emotionally connected to it. Biodiversity is this world's greatest capital, created by 3.5 billion years of evolution. Each species that becomes extinct diminishes the earnings potential and the range of possibilities open to future generations in deciding freely about their own future. Lost genetic information, fewer species and damaged ecosystems all reduce the  opportunities available to our children and grandchildren.

A lizard in the Yaguas, Peru. © Daniel Rosengren

Conserving biodiversity

More than three quarters of all species live on 20 per cent of the earth surface. When time and financial resources are scarce, and when there is major conflict between use and protection, it is crucial to focus on the species-rich regions – the treasure troves of biodiversity. This is why FZS concentrates its efforts on specific ecosystems.

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Lion in Serengeti (Daniel Rosengren)

Protecting wilderness areas

The protection of wilderness is inherently about sustainability beyond our own lifetimes. By wilderness we mean large, predominantly intact areas in which natural processes take place without human interference. Wilderness areas therefore play a fundamental role in the conservation of biodiversity.

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